Criteria for Recognizing PAS (or Hostile Aggressive Parenting)
- Criteria I: Access and Contact Blocking
- Criteria II: Unfounded Abuse Allegations
- Criteria III: Deterioration in Relationship Since Separation
- Criteria IV: Intense Fear Reaction by Children
The active blocking of access or contact between the child and the targeted parent. The rationale used to justify it may well take many different forms. One of the most common is that of protection. It may be argued that the targeted parent’s parental judgment is inferior and therefore, the child is much worse off from the visit. In extreme cases, this will take the form of allegations of child abuse, quite often sexual abuse.
False or unfounded accusations of abuse against the targeted parent. The most strident expression of this is the false accusation of sexual abuse. This is especially the situation with small children who are more vulnerable to the manipulations implied by such false allegations.
The third of the criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is probably the least described or identified, but critically is one of the most important. It has to do with the existence of a positive relationship between the minor children and the targeted parent, prior to the marital separation; and a substantial deterioration of it since then. Such a recognized decline does not occur on its own. It is, therefore, one of the most important indicators of the presence of alienation.
This is more psychological than the first three. It refers to an obvious fear reaction on the part of the children, of displeasing or disagreeing with the alienating parent in regard to the target parent. Simply put, an alienating parent operates by the adage, “My way or the highway.” If the children disobey this directive, especially in expressing positive approval of the absent parent, the consequences can be very serious. It is not uncommon for an alienating parent to reject the children, often telling him or her that they should go live with the target parent. When this does occur one often sees that this threat is not carried out, yet it operates more as a message of constant warning. The child, in effect, is put into a position of being the alienating parent’s “agent” and is continually being put through various loyalty tests. The important issue here is that the alienating parent thus forces the child to choose parents. This, of course, is in direct opposition to the children’s emotional well being.